Monday, February 28, 2011

Shadow Puppets Put on a Show- with Music!

On February 16, Renata's class performed the Chinese folk tale "Tikki Tikki Tembo", using shadow puppets behind a lit-up screen. While Alex and Max operated the puppets, the rest of the class played barred instruments, recorders, and non-pitched instruments to create sound effects and to accompany two composed pieces written by Delelles and Kriske, two music educators who have orchestrated many folk tales for children to perform.

This week we begin the folk tale "It Could Always be Worse", with Renata's students composing their own piece of music to move the story along while improvising lines and adding sound effects.
Again, we will invite the younger students to be our audience when our rehearsals are done.

Elaine's class is listening to selections from "Carnival of the Animals". We have flown like birds, lumbered like elephants, roared like lions, jumped like kangaroos, and will soon take pictures with our cardboard cameras every time we hear the cukoo bird echo his song. We will try to photograph this elusive bird "in the woods."

Susan's class has learned 4 notes on recorders. The recorders play the melody while the barred instruments accompany them. Today's music was titled, "Hi C!" Children read the music on the staff and then played it. Then we added the bass xylophone for a steady support and the glockenspiels for tone color.

Renata's class and Susan's class are listening to music of the earth and rivers in preparation for the Ann Arbor Symphony's Youth Concert on March 16. Lydia told me today that she recognized one of the pieces- "In The Hall of the Mountain King"- at the Academy Awards show Sunday evening.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carolina Chocolate Drops and Fog

As winter's somber skies brings us to a reflective mood, Renata's class has conquered a nice arrangement for barred instruments that is actually a sound carpet for Carl Sandberg's poem "Fog". Lukas' and Arvid's mom, Johanna, has translated this into Swedish, while Varvara's mom, Natalia, is translating into Russian, Renata's class into French, and Melissa's mom, Lisa, into Spanish. This is not the students' original idea, but rather one that was shared by west coast music educator Doug Goodkin.
We start with Goodkin's idea- "Fog"- and later the students will choose a short poem to "sound carpet" with their own musical ideas. This may include movement, speech, sung melody, barred instruments and/or unpitched sounds. We hope to share with you some of these ideas in May at Reflections night.

Elaine's class is learning some beginning rhythm patterns and beginning melodic patterns, while playing instruments and singing.

Susan's class is playing soprano recorder with some jazzy background music supporting them. They are reading the notes on staff. The recorder is such a motivator to read the melody.

The Summers-Knoll Community Folk Dance night is in February. To that end, we have danced "Sashay the Donut", "Sasha" (from last year), and "Solomon Levi". This year's event will also include a grand march and, of course, the Virgina Reel.

Summers-Knoll students ride to the Michigan Theater on Friday for a rollicking good concert performed by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a "junk" band playing lots of good American folk music of the east coast and the south.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Plainchant to Polyphony

September is the "rebirth" of organized intellectual persuits in places of learning.
So fitting is it to start our musical exploration into meter, harmony, form, melody and rhythm with plain chant of Medieval times. We listened to plain chant (erroneously called Gregorian Chant), relaxing on the floor as many voices sang as one in a flowing ribbon of sound. Plain chant was the only source of music in the times preceding the Renaissance that has endured. It's unison singing brings calm to the listener, exactly as it was written to do for the monks and nuns who prayed for long spells at a time. Today, yoga instructors have discovered plain chant's calming properties and often use this music in the studio.
Now, the Renaissance is another matter, with music becoming secular and used a great deal in the home. Dancing, too, became a leisure past time. Renaissance men and women would play recorders and hand drums along with lutes. And vocal harmony now became popular, mostly through madrigal groups (groups of 6 voices singing in harmony).
At this age, Renata's class can sing harmony via the round "Oh, How Lovely is the Evening". Susan's class will try a simpler round, and Elaine's class will speak a simple ostinato ( The spider kept on working, until the day was done...) As I read the book, "The Very Busy Spider".

We have begun to learn a Branle from France, a renaissance dance accompanied by recorders and drums. We can only raise our arms so far because renaissance clothing was so heavy.

What the study of renaissance music does is allow these students to see how historical events and thought shape music.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dancing and Song Fill Spring

This Friday, April 23, Summers-Knoll families will gather to dance, dance, dance! We have rented the commons room at Allen School- in our school neighborhood- and we will begin to dance at 7:05 pm. Our Summers-Knoll students know the dances' forms and basic folk dance terminology. Siblings will be able to participate with an adult. Summers-Knoll students will also participate with an adult. You'll have fun and I promise it won't be too rigorous.
I had the opportunity to spend a day two years ago with Martha Riley, a nationally-known folk dance educator, when she came to Detroit to work with music educators. I quote her when I write " Folk dances provide unique avenues for the development of children's aural skills...Feeling musical phrasing develops naturally through dance...Folk dancing can be highly motivating
because it is a social activity. It encourages cooperation rather than competition because all must work together to make the dance complete and all take credit for its success.
Dancing is more than a set of steps: it is a joyful and natural response to the music! It allows kids the intuitive understanding of the lengthth of a phrase without counting, and the enjoyment of the interaction with other dancers. If we allow children to learn and enjoy music and dance in a natural and stress-free way, they will love both for a lifetime. "